Friday, October 25, 2013 Happy Bird-day!

Seward, Alaska

Miraculously, yesterday's downpour ceased during the night and the spent clouds surreptitiously slunk away. By noon, Seward had a twin to Tuesday with a smiling sun, mild temps in the high 40s, and a mirror calm Resurrection Bay. Hard to believe that in between, Wednesday featured a hard frost and biting cold northerly wind, followed by the flood. What a week for weather!

This was a day to put in a treasure box to save for a rainy, cold, dark day in December! Shortly before 1:30 pm, the waning moon seemingly perched on the rim of sparkling snow-capped mountains as it said good-bye. The brilliant blue sky seemed to penetrate right through that celestial body, infusing it with a blue translucence. Quite a treat!

I headed once again over to SMIC at Mile 5, Nash Road to search for the Long-billed Murrelet. While there were never lots of birds altogether in the boat basin, as time passed, many birds flew or paddled in to feed on small schools of fish: 8 BARROW'S GOLDENEYES, about 12 PELAGIC CORMORANTS, 10 HORNED GREBES, 6 MARBLED MURRELETS, a COMMON MERGANSER hen, a single PIGEON GUILLEMOT hatch year, and several noisy hatch year and adult BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES. A sea otter also swam in facing forward like a river otter, and then flipped over to continue as usual, swimming backwards. It's a wonder they don't hit anything.

Using the scope, I scanned far out into the bay. Even tiny MARBLED MURRELETS with their white collars, were easy to identify thanks to the calm water. Small groups of seabirds dotted the water, moving quickly when others began diving and feeding, additional species included: 3 SURF SCOTER females, 1 BLACK SCOTER female, 1 COMMON LOON, and 2 PACIFIC LOONS.

While scanning, I suddenly picked up the rapid wingbeat of a BELTED KINGFISHER flying 20-30 feet above the water, making great circles over the other seabirds. As I followed it, another KINGFISHER appeared, flying a parallel course. It was amazing how long and how far they flew over the water without feeding or taking a break. At times, they cruised just a foot or two above the water, apparently seeking but not finding.

Over the horned grebes, past the surf scoters, around the pelagic cormorants, zipping by the diving marbled murrelets, over the yellow-billed loon.

What! A YELLOW-BILLED LOON indeed, a young brownish bird with a pale face and upturned bill gleaming in the sun. What a pleasure! Back to the frenetic Kingfishers, who eventually rattled their way to the Spring Creek wetlands and rested on a snag. I can't begin to count the calories they must have expended on that long sortie. Maybe it was a contest?

I spent several hours here, enjoying the warm sun, the peaceful lapping of wavelets against the breakwater, and the spectacular scenery all around.

On the way home, I stopped to enjoy a single TRUMPETER SWAN feeding on the aquatic vegetation of the Mile 1 Nash Road wetlands. It won't be long before this shallow pond ices up and nudges the swan on its way south.

Though the Long-billed Murrelet escaped me, I felt rich in the bounty of the other birds and beauty of the late October afternoon.

Other news:
I was not able to check on the Yellow-breasted Sapsuckers today, but hope others will post if they saw any.

A LONG-TAILED DUCK, male was reported in the bay right in front of town along the Greenbelt. Coincidentally, I also found a dead long-tailed duck today, tangled in the wrack line, a victim of the recent storm. This species is not common here.

PINE GROSBEAK numbers are increasing in town, feeding on Mt Ash berries with VARIED THRUSHES and ROBINS. DARK-EYED JUNCO numbers are also on the upswing.

Tuesday, Oct 22:
Jim H reported 10 WHITE-WINGED and 10 SURF SCOTERS, 2 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, 4 PACIFIC LOONS, 2 adult and 1 juvenile COMMON LOONS, and at least 10 pairs of MARBLED MURRELETS on a boat trip to Fox Island. He noted that the shore was busier than in the middle of the Bay. On the island was 1 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (!), several BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, and 1 PACIFIC WREN.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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